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Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013


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Shit happens. It's a part of life. Growing up, I began noticing how different people dealt with sticky or less than ideal situations. Some react automatically; they swear, freeze up, allow their ability to think to become compromised or non-existant. Others "roll with the punches." I decided that I wanted to be a "roll with the punches" type of person.
Ever since this realization, I have been working on how I react in every situation. I try to not let myself get worked up over things I cannot directly control. It is not worth the stress. Instead, I tried to focus on the aspects of a situation I can control and go from there.
Every now and then I would get the opportunity to practice my "roll with the punches" skills. However, with Dragons, I have faced such opportunities almost on a daily basis; really giving me the chance to hone my skills.
Right from the get-go, situations where my skills were tested began happening. Due to a major snow storm in the North East, my flight to Miami was canceled. I was not going to meet everyone at the airport. Instea, I was the "new girl" a few days later. Next, I learned what happens when you drink unfiltered water. But I was not alone. Vomiting and 1's on the poop scale are no fun, but you deal with it and antibiotics help you get better in a few days. Then there was the hole. My homestay family lives in a compound with extended family. They all share a bathroom- a rock with a hole in it surrounded by some material with a large sack for a door. I was thankful it had a roof one night when it was raining and a door! However, I quite like the hole. It's a pretty walk; I pass goats, dogs, ducks, an oven, guina pigs, geese, and some chickens as my feet trudge along the muddy path. The only time I disliked the hole was during the nights I had my parasite. But there was nothing I could do so why stress about it? I have the best family in the world and would never trade, even for a flushing toilet inside my house.
One reoccurring situation is Bolivian punctuality. As a group, we have learned a short hike up a small hill to a bus actually means a 4 hour hike up a very steep mountain under the glaring sun. In addition, we have learned to count on a "6 hour bus ride" to take 8-10 hours. We made the best of it though by talking, playing cards and singing. During our homestay in Caata, I faced countless examples. My family and everyone else, speaks Quechua for the most part. They would speak Quechua, say some Spanish words, then switch back. During the three days we spent with our families, I had no idea what was going on except for the few things they explained in Spanish. So, I juswt went with it. I followed my mother around despite the fact she kept telling me to sit on my bed. I helped her harvest some potatoes and onions, We took the donkeys for a walk. I was able to see and participate in the life of a local Bolivian woman from Caata.
As I have explained, I, as well as the group, have faced countless examples of being tested on my "roll with the punches" skills. But that is what Dragons is all about. This experience is supposed to push your boundaries and give you opportunities to face the unknown which will allow us to grow and learn in ways we never imagined. We are supposed to feel uncomfortable and awkward at times. In my opinion, learning how to deal with tough experiences is one of the greatest skills that you can learn in life. I have been observing that my fellow travelers and I are becoming more comfortable and confident with tough situations. We are really getting good at "rolling with the punches."
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Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

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Rolling with the Punches

Margaret Chandler,Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Shit happens. It’s a part of life. Growing up, I began noticing how different people dealt with sticky or less than ideal situations. Some react automatically; they swear, freeze up, allow their ability to think to become compromised or non-existant. Others "roll with the punches." I decided that I wanted to be a "roll with […]

Posted On

04/18/13

Author

Margaret Chandler

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Dear Families and Friends of A&A B,

 

Just over a week ago I was presented with the opportunity to join this program as an additional instructor. I began working with Dragons in 2009 in Cambodia and have spent the years since working as an instructor and a Program Director in the office, though primarily focused on courses in South and Southeast Asia. Having spent three years in Panama in the Peace Corps just after college, the opportunity to return to Latin America and spend time with students again was a welcome one.

 

On Monday, I departed Denver as a spring snowstorm hit the Front Range of the Rockies. On Tuesday, I arrived in Cochabamba on a crystalline morning, marveling at the sun-drenched foothills and inhaling the fresh dry air of the Andes as I stepped out of the airport. A short taxi ride through Cochabamba and Tiquipaya delivered me to the program house and the welcome arms of Regina, Emilie, and Kyle. Students were scattered in small groups in the casita and small tent with their language instructors, busily practicing their verb tenses.

 

It has been just two and half days since arrival, and yet I feel as if I’ve been with the group for weeks. It took just a few hours to notice the strong bond between students and a genuine sense of group love.  Rather quickly I was invited to join students for their ISP projects, listen to a guest speaker talk about US involvement in the “War on Drugs” in South America, and participate in discussions about group dynamics and proposals for the student expedition. Spanish is coming rushing back and I’m remembering the high of speaking to strangers in a foreign tongue. Students are impressing me, as they always do, with their curiosity, the speed with which they process new information, their willingness to address challenge and conflict, and perhaps most of all, their vibrant energy. In just a few short days, I have already seen growth in their communication skills.

 

As I look forward to the next four weeks with this fine group of travelers and seekers, I first must give gratitude to the Dragons Admin for giving me this opportunity to be an educator in Latin America again.  Secondly, I say thank you to the group, who has welcomed me so warmly and whole-heartedly. Lastly, I commend you parents, who send your sons and daughters to faraway lands in the care of others.  I promise you they are in are in excellent hands, and that they are learning far more than you can possibly imagine.

 

In gratitude,

Michael (Galleta)

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Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

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Corazon Latino

Michael Woodard,Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Dear Families and Friends of A&A B,   Just over a week ago I was presented with the opportunity to join this program as an additional instructor. I began working with Dragons in 2009 in Cambodia and have spent the years since working as an instructor and a Program Director in the office, though primarily […]

Posted On

04/18/13

Author

Michael Woodard

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The rainforest has a way of reminding you exactly where you are. When we first arrived at the Los Amigos research station, it took me a little while to realize; The forest itself doesn't feel that different from the ones back home. In the shades of grey from my weak headlight, the forest looked similar enough. The same dead leaves created a tapestry of patterns on the path ahead of me and I still managed to stub my toes on the webs of roots weaving their way across the ground. Even the trees themselves seemed familiar. But after turning my light off, I learned the rainforest is so much more than sight. It is an entirely different world that had now enveloped me completely. The rainforest is the smell of the petrichor that permanently surrounds you as it mixes with the ever present layer of sweat and bug spray. It's the sound of the mud squelching up to the rim of your rain boots as you scramble over decomposing fallen trees or roots the height of your thighs, the sound of the monkeys scampering in the canopy above your head. It´s the sight of the sunrise 60 meters above the canopy as the pairs of parrots and macaws soar by the rickety tower you've climbed. The immensity of the rainforest is hard to describe in all its magnificance, but once you've been, it is impossible to forget.

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Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

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The Rainforest

Kaly Moot,Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

Description

The rainforest has a way of reminding you exactly where you are. When we first arrived at the Los Amigos research station, it took me a little while to realize; The forest itself doesn’t feel that different from the ones back home. In the shades of grey from my weak headlight, the forest looked similar […]

Posted On

04/16/13

Author

Kaly Moot

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We have been to Cusco, a vibrant, full of life, color and energy city, yet quaint and aging like a small European town. The cobblestone roads, decaying buildings, endless hills, and large open plazas set a very slow and relaxed pace for tourists and locals alike. We have been to one of the 7 wonders of the world, Machu Picchu. And we have sweated our way through the lush rainforest in the Amazon. Tonight we are back to Bolivia in our homestays in Cochabamba reconnecting to our host families

 

Here is a video of our time in the Amazon:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DB8nzwuO78&feature=youtu.be

 

And here is a link to the Apolobamba video again but in better quality:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdXr_klfZ8U&feature=youtu.be

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Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

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Back in Bolivia, and Some movie links

Los Instructores,Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

Description

We have been to Cusco, a vibrant, full of life, color and energy city, yet quaint and aging like a small European town. The cobblestone roads, decaying buildings, endless hills, and large open plazas set a very slow and relaxed pace for tourists and locals alike. We have been to one of the 7 wonders of […]

Posted On

04/13/13

Author

Los Instructores

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     The trees became denser and we felt the inescapable warm dampness. This was my first impression of the Amazon, bugs lots of plants, and stickyness, but living there showed me different. All the plants as enumerable as they seem each have interesting evolutionary characteristics, the melostoms for example are unique in their multi vascular leaves, this allows them to channel more nutrients across each leaf. The equally enumerable insects also possess those cool evolutionary advances, the reason butterflies have wings was first just a temperature regulatory system, later wings became one of the most important assets for those little weird creatures with six legs.

     After the rainforest talk in the los amigos reservation we went to live among the amazonians. One of the most prominent struggles was between the young and the old; the new aged pop culture savy adults to be have minds focused mostly on getting the new fake armani jeans and watches from their money made in gold mining while the elders face the reality that their world is no longer predictable by the old ways, unforeseen challenges arose from entering the world economy with no leg to stand on. In the beginning getting machetes from the spanish aided their way of life unquestionably but now the people of the Amazon are being burdened by all the things they never had like needing gas for boats, eating preservative ridden packaged foods that litter their forest, the worst is that before western contact there was a sense of community that held them together, after a kill or a many fish were caught they were shared and all the people got an oppurtunity to eat. Nowadays the people who fish sell their fish and hunting is done only for one family at a time. 

      Something this time in the Amazon taught me  was how industrializing and participating in the economy with most other nations could actually be worse for those uncontacted societies. This flabbergasted me but after listening to Manuel talk about the old ways with such nostalgia and how now most of his fellow elders are depressed because of the changes I started to make sense of it. 

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Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

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Living Experience

Zane Thompson,Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

Description

     The trees became denser and we felt the inescapable warm dampness. This was my first impression of the Amazon, bugs lots of plants, and stickyness, but living there showed me different. All the plants as enumerable as they seem each have interesting evolutionary characteristics, the melostoms for example are unique in their multi vascular […]

Posted On

04/11/13

Author

Zane Thompson

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Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said:“Man.
Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.  
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.  And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;

he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” 

 

Growing up is never an easy experience, there is far too often a line between what we want to do, and what society expects us to do. We live in a world where individual minds are no longer valued; a world where different is not seen as unique and amazing, but rather as "weird."  

 

For a large part of my childhood, my main goal in life was to become the richest man in the world. My thought process was as follows: It's nice to have nice things and having nice things makes me happy, therefore, if I can live a life where I obtain as many material goods as possible, I will be happy as can be. Little did I know.  I would have to say that the most amazing part of a program like Andes and Amazon is challenging what you have been taught, and doing so with a group of amazing individuals. Everybody is given the opportunity to succeed, for it is in our best interest and in the group's best interest to all get along with one another. We are forced to spend time with people we wouldn't normally get to know back at home, and in doing so, we realize how complex of a place the world is. Everybody on this earth has a completely different story, and everybody has within them the ability to amount to great things, but society often blinds us of this inner power we all possess.

 

Travelling for 3 months with the same group of people can be overwhelming, but it can also be unbelievably eye-opening. We are all given the chance to be ourselves, and not be judged for it, rather, be loved for it. The type of confidence obtained can then be taken back home and can be a part of the rest of our lives.  

 

Just recently, A&A semester B just got back to Cusco from the rainforest. My experience there was unbelievably powerful and very eye opening. We all spent a few days in a small amazonian village called Boca Inambari. On our final day there, we had a conversation with the leader of the village, many topics were covered, but the one that really stuck with me is the influence western culture has had on their lifestyle. We asked him the question: "are you a more happy person now that your village has started developing into a more western and less "indigenous" village?" His answer was very clear: no. They no longer value their culture as much as they did before. But why? Isn't development supposed to be an unambiguously positive aspect to the advancement of the human race?  Unfortunately enough, we live in a world where success is far too often measured by how much money you make, how many people you know, or even how nice the clothes you wear is. Oftentimes, people come across these kinds of realizations and simply look right past them because they are scared to step off the very straight path society has thrown in front of us, a path that we are expected to follow. In doing so, people get so caught up in what others think of them, and this creates a huge barrier between an amazing mind and a life of success.

 

When a lot of time is spent travelling throughout third world countries, it is hard not to question your life back at home, and many ambitions you may have. People in these countries may not have a lot of money, but they have smiles. They may not have a lot of land, or a big house, but they have loving families. They may not have a job that pays exceptionally well, but they have enough to provide for themselves, and enough to allow them to enjoy the real pleasures in life, the pleasures money can't buy.  

 

So, do I still want to be the richest man in the world? Yes, I do. The only difference is that my perception of what it means to be rich has changed. I have first handedly experienced happiness with very little to no money, a kind of happiness that cannot be found in many places in our culture. It's not about what you have, its about who you have to share it with. Relationships are too often not valued as they should be, trips like this make you realize the value they hold. Being around so many inspiring individuals has made me realize that you should always do your own thing, and walk the path you are destined to walk, not the path everybody expects you to walk. This trip has taught me that success is a choice, a choice that anybody can make, all it takes is a little modification on what it means to be successful.

 

“Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

 

Do whatever it may be that you are passionate about, but do so with care. If you heart is in it, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished. The best part about a trip like this is that I am not the only one who has had these kinds of realizations. We are all in this together as a team; have been from the start and will be until the very end.

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Best Notes From The Field, Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

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A step into the mind of a young traveller

Philip Beardsley,Best Notes From The Field, Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said:“Man.Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.  Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.  And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present […]

Posted On

04/11/13

Author

Philip Beardsley

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Walking into the Amazon, it didn't immediately feel like I had arrived at the most diverse forest on the planet; instead, what I mainly felt was the sweltering heat and the intense humidity. While completely bearable, in some ways, my discomfort blinded me initially to some of the wonders of the rainforest. While at Los Amigos-a research center in the Amazon Rainforest along the Madre de Dios River-I was able to witness the forest in an unexpected way. During our stay at Los Amigos, we had the option to view the sunrise from a tower in the middle of the forest each morning. It required an early start (try 4:30 am), a mild hike through the jungle followed by a somewhat uncertain climb to the top of tower. Most of us were willing to sacrifice some sleep in order to witness something we would most likely never get a second chance to see, and on the second morning, me, Lydia, Kyle and our guide hiked out to the tower.

 

The tower stood 16 meters above the forest floor and rose a good amount above the dense canopy. Despite the fact that the sun had yet to fully rise, sweat clung to back of my neck and bugs darted around my face and into the plants. For safety reasons, harnesses were provided in order to climb the ladder that led to the tower's platform overlooking the forest. Once strapped in, the four of us ascended to the top of the tower. 

 

Upon arriving at the platform (and after a few bug bites), the forest sprawled out in front of us in every direction, and the sun peaked up above the horizon resting beneath low hanging storm clouds. The view wasn’t the only thing that had changed, as I was hit with a torrent of unfamiliar sounds. Birds of varying nature could be heard squawking and chirping from indistinguishable locations. The calls and howls of monkeys echoed throughout the vast sea of trees. Even the bugs seemed to grow louder and more varied at that height. Three blue macaws flew past our tower, and in the distant, a flock of orangey colored birds sat in a tree and flew off further into the horizon. With binoculars, I briefly spotted a monkey swinging between the tress.   It wasn't until that moment that I realized just how alive the rainforest truly is. I’d always been aware of the massive amount of biodiversity occupying all spaces of the forest, both in the easily visibly and tightly hidden spaces-in trees, in the dirt, among the living leaves in the trees and among the dead ones on the ground, flying throughout the air, wandering both the forest floor and the branches and vines of the canopy- life existed everywhere throughout the rainforest. But I hadn’t actually felt it until that morning where I could view a tiny corner of the vast expanse of the shrinking Amazon rainforest.  

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Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

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Above the Trees

Sarah Drake,Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Walking into the Amazon, it didn’t immediately feel like I had arrived at the most diverse forest on the planet; instead, what I mainly felt was the sweltering heat and the intense humidity. While completely bearable, in some ways, my discomfort blinded me initially to some of the wonders of the rainforest. While at Los […]

Posted On

04/11/13

Author

Sarah Drake

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 I feel like this is a huge part of travelling especially after visiting the Amazon, because everything there was trying to kill me or give me Malaria.  It wasn't only the bugs that got under our skin, but the intense heat and humidity sometimes.  A lot of people couldn't handle the intensity of this harsh enviornment and I don't blame them if I had been there much longer I probably would've been in the same state of mind.  I was too busy being enamoured by this amazing place.  I've never seen so many amazing plants and animals in my entire life.  It has been my dream since I was a child to see the Amazon because I loved bugs and the Amazon is teeming with all sorts of amazing bugs.  I had no idea that this amazing place held so much wonderment and awe; from the multitudes of beautiful butterflies, to the delicious fruits of the cocoa plant.  If you thinkt chocolate is good then you have to try the fruit which is amazing.  Then, I learned that not only is there amazing nature but natives that have chosen a life of their ancestors and remained undisturbed by modern civilization?!  I was incredulous, why would these people choose to shy away from the modern world where we have all these great things like T.V, Chipotle, and other amazing inventions.  We visited this village called, Boca Ambari, and I met the elders who we contacted 60 years ago and went from living richly to living poorly.  The saddest part is that the younger generation has chosen to join the rat race and discontinue, to some degree, the culture of this village.  They work in the dangerous profession of illegal gold mining which poisons their water and fish with mercury.  As I think more about the Amazon I realize what doesn't kill you strengthens you and makes you more resilient to adversity.  I would like to try to live like an uncontacted person for a month and see if I could handle it because we were there for 5 days and it was a trying time for our group.  I wish we were pushed out of our comfort zone and stayed for the full 5 days because it would've been a very valuable experience for the rest of my life.  Seeing the difference between how the Amazonians live and how cushy I have it at home.  In conclusion, embracing the good can often times outweigh the bad, and at the end of it all if you're still standing it makes you a stronger more resilient individual.  The most important kind of toughness in my mind is mental toughness, which I have been neglecting for a long time.  The Amazon rekindled that toughness in me and that is the most important lesson I will take away from the Amazon.
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Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

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“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” -Nietzsche

Will Phelan,Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

Description

 I feel like this is a huge part of travelling especially after visiting the Amazon, because everything there was trying to kill me or give me Malaria.  It wasn’t only the bugs that got under our skin, but the intense heat and humidity sometimes.  A lot of people couldn’t handle the intensity of this harsh […]

Posted On

04/11/13

Author

Will Phelan

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When you take a dung beetle from the forest in the amazon, and put into a plastic bag, it will mold, and it will smell absolutely foul when you take it out to show an interested Dragons student. When one of the researchers at the nature conservatory in Los Amigos took the beetle out of the bag, the stench filled the entire lab, but the beetle itself was absolutely incredible. It was iridescent blue/green with a massive horn between its eyes. Though it was only a couple of inches long, it definitely inspired awe. 

I wish I hadn´t spent the first nineteen years of my life being afraid of bugs, but the amazon was a great place to overcome that fear.  The nature conservatory was especially helpful because the researches had an abundance of information to share with us. (And considering there are only 2 full-time researchers living at this conservatory in the middle of forest, they were exceptionally excited to talk to us about insects, plants, native peoples, and animals in the forest). 

 

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Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

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Dung Beetles

Amanda Harley,Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

Description

When you take a dung beetle from the forest in the amazon, and put into a plastic bag, it will mold, and it will smell absolutely foul when you take it out to show an interested Dragons student. When one of the researchers at the nature conservatory in Los Amigos took the beetle out of […]

Posted On

04/11/13

Author

Amanda Harley

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A Where There Be Dragons semester is a time for students to grow and reflect. Throughout my travels, I have had conversations with my fellow adventurers about all sorts of topics, but the ones that create the most intriging and deep conversations and cause the most reflection are those about church and family.
 
In my life, church and family are almost one in the same. Whether it be the fact my church is a family or my family accounts for a decent percentage of the congregation; who knows. Both have always encouraged me to follow my dreams and be open to all sorts of possibilities. And so, I find myself in South America; tackling every opportunity or hardship with confidence and the skills both mychurch and my family have taught me.
 
The church experience that I have taken the most from is the Adirondak canoe trip. It is just as the name describes- a week long canoe trip through the Adirondack park in New York State. It is a group of six girls with two instructors enjoying the wilderness together. It teaches teamwork; it can be difficult living in such close quarters with a small group of people. But you learn to work together to get through anything and learn how to play to everyone´s strengths. Leadership; some campers struggle more than other but everyone has the ability and the place to be a leader. Whether it is physically, experientially, academically, emotionally, or artistically. Everyone has amazing traits, thoughts, and abilities to offer. There is a place for it all. Beauty; without showers, make-up, or social networking, you are able to detach yourself from all the artificial aspects of our society and focus on each person as a whole as well as enjoy the amazing location. Basic survival skills; always drink filtered water, it is lovely to poop in a hole in the woods, packing lightly is key, and always wear sunscreen. All of these skills, first introduced to me on my church canoe trips, have been needed and put to use throughout my time in South America.
 
Another lesson I learned that comes in handy every day, is it is very important to see all sides of a situation or idea and use what you know to create your own opinion. This was learned through taking a confirmation class. I remember going to all sorts of religious services around the area where I live, so I and my classmates could see what else is out there before we made our own decision about our faith. I try to practice this method when we have discussions or talk about difficult and touchy topics. I love sitting back and hearing everyone else´s thoughts and opinions to let them challenge my own. Often times I will hear a new perspective which I had never previously considered. I enjoy changing my mind and altering my opinions after considering everything I have heard.
 
Now on to my family. They have provided me support and a very stable foundation. They encourage me to follow my dreams and trust my ability to make my own decisions. When I first started thinking about going abroad, they were all for it if that was really what I wanted. I did my research, found a program, ran it through my high school´s administration, and figured out how I could go abroad second semester and still graduate. This showed my parents that I was sure of my decision. So they gave me the freedom to follow my own path and always encourage me to be me. I am very greatful for this and for my family.
 
Throughout various experiences, I constantly see the benefit of having my church and my family be a big part of my life. I would not be where I am today without these influences.

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Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

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Influences

Margaret Chandler,Andes & Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2013

Description

A Where There Be Dragons semester is a time for students to grow and reflect. Throughout my travels, I have had conversations with my fellow adventurers about all sorts of topics, but the ones that create the most intriging and deep conversations and cause the most reflection are those about church and family. In my life, […]

Posted On

04/11/13

Author

Margaret Chandler

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